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FOM CONCERT: CARLO GUAITOLI (article first published : 2006-10-20)

The Italian pianist Carlo Guaitoli, last heard in Durban two years ago, delivered a connoisseurís programme for this recital at the Durban Jewish Centre, music of exceptional quality played by an exceptionally gifted performer.

The programme ranged from Liszt to Prokofiev and consisted of works that are not unfamiliar but are not very often played in public.

Lisztís three Petrarch Sonnets date from the 1830ís and 40ís, when the young hero of the keyboard was wandering though Switzerland and Italy with the Countess Marie díAgoult, producing much lovely piano music and three illegitimate children (one of whom, Cosima, later married Richard Wagner). In typically extravagant fashion he called three volumes of music AnnŤes de Pelerinage, years of pilgrimage.

The Petrarch sonnets (part of the years of pilgrimage) are based on poems by the 14th century Florentine writer Francesco Petrarch and they always seem to me to capture exactly the Renaissance atmosphere of elegant courtyards, fountains, pine trees, marble statues and romantic ardour. Carlo Guaitoli played these fine works with power and passion, giving due emphasis to their many subtle beauties.

More pianistic brilliance came with Mendelssohnís Variations Serieuses, Op 54, a work which seems to be inexplicably neglected these days by concert pianists. It is Mendelssohnís finest composition for the piano, and its various moods were presented with compelling virtuosity by Carlo Guaitoli.

This was followed by more Mendelssohn, the fleet-footed Rondo Capriccioso, a popular piece but, again, one that does not often appear on concert programmes. I think the last time I heard it in a concert hall was many decades ago, played by Claudio Arrau.

The two surviving movements of a 1905 sonata by the Czech composer Leos Janacek were new territory for me, and I found the music solemn and impressive. They are headed Presentiment and Death, and it was entirely appropriate that the pianist should announce that he was dedicating his performance to the memory of Lionel Bowman, the distinguished South African pianist, who had died earlier that day.

Ravelís glittering and sardonic Valses nobles et sentimentales took us temporarily to the salons of twentieth century Paris, and Prokofievís one-movement Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28 brought the recital to a driving, rhythmical, brilliant conclusion.

There was an encore: a beautifully phrased account of Mendelssohnís well-known Song Without Words in E major, Op. 19, No. 1.

The prelude performer of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was the 13-year-old violinist Jacqueline Wedderburn-Maxwell, who played the slow movement from Max Bruchís Violin Concerto in G minor and a piece by the 20th century Polish composer Karol Szymanowsky. - Michael Green




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